With the humble blog post fueling the inbound marketing explosion, marketers everywhere are looking for the science behind business blogging. I’ve already taken a data-driven look at blogging frequency; and now, it’s time to tackle blog post length.
This post is for every marketer that’s ever wondered how long their blog posts should be; from a 300-word microblog, through to a 2000-word epic guide. Contrary to popular opinion, there is a right answer – but I’d be lying if I said that answer was one-size fits all. To help you uncover the ideal content length for your audience, I’ll be taking a look at 7 crucial questions for determining perfect blog post length!
7. How complex is the subject of the blog post?
The first constraint is a simple one: how complicated is the subject of your post?
Your blog post has to solve a problem, first and foremost. To achieve that, you need to ensure that your audience understands your writing; understands the problem being posed; and understands your solution.
Content marketers have to write about a stunning breadth of topics, from all manner of different industries. Whilst it may be easy to convey this message in a simple B2C niche, it can be a real challenge in B2B.
If you’re writing in a highly-technical niche, where jargon and industry buzzwords are commonplace, you’ll need to devote part of your post to explaining these terms. If your post has a high level of assumed knowledge, you may need to tackle some contextual concepts, and even link-back to a previous post. All of these factors will necessitate a longer blog post length, before we even tackle the other issues on this list.
Brevity is always to be recommended in blog writing, but remember: it can’t ever be at the expense of clarity.
6. What’s the end goal of your blog post?
Effective blog content sets out to achieve a very specific goal – whether that’s to educate a potential lead, improve the authority of your brand or simply to entertain. Each of these goals has a different M.O., and in order to choose the right blog post length for your next post, you need a clear understanding of its goal.
- Educate. If empowering your audience with information is the primary goal of your blog post, don’t shy away from longer content. The more information, background and advice you can provide in your post, the more effective you’ll be in educating them.
- Create controversy. Controversial content is a powerful tool for generating interest in your brand, and best of all, a short retort or opinion piece is often all you’ll need to create a buzz.
- Offer actionable advice. Actionable content needs to include all the information and guidance necessary to achieve an end-goal. Think of it as a step-by-step guide, and don’t shy away from going into detail where necessary.
- Promote a resource. If you’re trying to promote a downloadable eGuide or template, long content can distract from your crucial CTA. Stick to short-form content (even bullet points), and think of your blog post as a sales pitch for the resource.
- Develop brand authority and thought-leadership. This can go either way. Getting your own opinions across can be achieved in 100 words or 10,000 (although sadly my dissertation couldn’t be the former). Whilst more text equates to more detail, the likes of Seth Godin proves that shorter content can be just as effective.
5. How time-constrained are your target audience?
If you’re writing for busy executives and directors, you’re unlikely to earn more than a few minutes of their time in any one sitting. Epic content and huge guides will be too long for them to meaningfully engage with. Instead, it’s better to get your point across in a few hundred words – and write something they can read in a quick coffee break.
If, however, you’re writing for an audience that prioritises education and learning, you can afford to be more flexible with your blog post length. Junior employees may spend a big portion of their day learning about the latest best-practices of marketing, and they’ll be keen to devour your latest 2000-word blog post.
Put yourself in the shoes of your target audience, and ask ‘How much time could I feasibly spare to read this blog post?’
4. How do your audience engage with your content?
In a mobile-driven world, it’s crucial to consider how our audience is engaging with content.
Tablets and smartphones are increasingly the first port of call for blog readers, and if your audience is digesting your blog content on-the-go, you’ll need to pare-down your content accordingly. Even if it’s beautifully formatted, and packed with value, a 2000-word blog post will be too long for most mobile users.
3. Is Search Engine Optimisation a priority?
If you want to seriously improve your search engine rank, you need to blog consistently; promote the life out of your content; follow the 8 principles of SEO copywriting; and write truly epic content.
As this data shows, long content consistently outperforms shorter content. The more words in your blog post, the greater the likelihood of earning backlinks, social shares and page views – all factors which determine search engine rank. Longer content should contain more value than a shorter equivalent article, warranting greater engagement; and the more words in your blog post, the easier it is to include natural keywords and keyword variants.
Correlation between word count and backlinks
Correlation between word count and social media shares
Correlation between content length and search engine rank
Whilst improved SEO is always desirable, it may not always be a primary concern. As we’ve said, longer content can alienate your audience – so improved search performance may come at the expense of meaningful engagement and conversions.
2. How often do you publish blog content?
Finally, your own blogging frequency should play a part in blog length calculations.
If you aim to publish content 5 times a week, it’s going to a be a real challenge to create high-quality 2000-word blog posts each and every time. In contrast, if you publish once a week, or even once a month, you’ll need to create truly epic content to give your audience a reason to continually engage with your brand.
1. Are you providing enough value?
This all boils down to a single point: content marketing is a value exchange.
Our audience is giving us their time in exchange for the information and advice shared by our content. In order to ensure their continued engagement with both blog post and business, there’s only one real question we need to ask ourselves:
‘Am I providing enough value to earn their time and interest?’
Blog post length should never drive the direction of your content. It needs to be decided in response to the needs of your audience – be it their time constraints, the complexity of their problems, or their desire for advice and guidance. Effective, purposeful blog content can be virtually any length – it just depends on who you’re writing it for.
Hopefully this look at blog post length will lay a few blogging questions to rest, and improve the efficacy of your content marketing.
For help in working out the ideal blog post length for your audience, and advice on anything business blogging related, get in touch! I’m a Bucks-based marketing copywriter, and I specialise in blog writing for UK marketing agencies.